Tag Archives: poetry

― to the Sharp-faced Boy
Ryan’s house, when I was sick

 
1.
The light from your cigarette
looks good on you,
but I’m not sorry when you put it out.
It is too cold for smoking
and the stench enters my lungs
like a mad dog barking.

You give me blankets and a choice
Soul Caliber or a movie –
which movie? Start ‘er up
and settle down in the cold room.
But your smile and your eyes are friendly
and those are more than enough reasons to stay.

 
2.
I’m sorry for being somewhat worried
every time you open your mouth,
but your clever head has a habit
of spewing boiling water at me.
How many times have I had to look for aloe
after a conversation with you?

But I have missed this person who
talks and laughs and listens with an
air of interest. We’ll stay away from
God, though. Dangerous ground I wish
I were brave enough to attempt. Wrap
your smarts around something else, please.

Movies and music and books – you
are avid and opinionated (that O’Neal coming through) – spark a
debate littered with swapped insults and mock offense.
I will have to learn better slurs
if I want to keep up with you – your mind
leaps ahead of mine like a loosed kite.

 

3.
Did you start that fire to show me that
you care? That’s what I’m thinking, but you
never say it, and these little gestures are
almost too sporadic for hope. But you let me borrow
your movies and ask before you smoke in
my car – is this a brother’s way of saying

“I love you”? Well, in any case, come over here
and give me a hug. Smart boy that can’t keep your
brains to yourself and dotes more on a cat than on
any person I know. Don’t look at me like that –
stand up straight, and try to remember,
however sappy it may be, I love you.

—–

This is a poem I wrote a couple years ago for a poetry workshop at USM. Found it tonight going through some old files. This was the first draft, and I’m pretty sure there’s a rewrite floating around somewhere. Didn’t look for it, though.

I should work on this poem again. I mean, I’m one of those horrible (and very occasional) poets that gets stupidly attached to their first drafts, and don’t ever try very hard to edit/rewrite. And changes I do make tend toward the superficial – a word here, a word there. Rarely anything of substance. Bad Charity.

But even I can see that this poem has some problems – awkward lines, jarring sounds, super sappiness. Definitely gotta cut back on the sappy.

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Celebrating National Poetry Day with some of my favorite poets

Who didn’t realize it was National Poetry Day until it was almost too late to get excited about it?

This chick.

Thankfully, I have some awesome literary folk I can claim as acquaintences/facebook friends who put poems in their statuses.

But anyway. Yes. Today is National Poetry Day! Apparently the theme this year is “Games.”

Games? Really? I don’t think I’m going to worry about the theme. Instead, in honor of it being National Poetry day I will give you some poems that I dearly love, or have sentimental value to me, or I just think are cool.

Ahem.

I think I will start with John Donne.

Now, I can’t claim to be the biggest Donne fan ever. In fact, a lot of his metaphysical poems are really not to my liking at all. However, I love his Holy Sonnets, and of those, this one in particular:

Batter my heart, three person’d God; for you

As yet but knocke, breathe, shine, and seeke to mend;

That I may rise, and stand, oerthrow mee,’and bend

Your force, to breake, blowe, burn and make me new.

I, like an usurpt towne, to’another due,

Labour to’admit  you, but Oh, to no end,

Reason your viceroy in mee, mee should defend,

But is captiv’d, and proves weake or untrue,

Yet dearely’I love you, and would be lov’d faine,

But am betroth’d unto your enemie,

Divorce mee,’untie, or breake that knot againe,

Take mee to you, imprison mee, for I

Except you’enthrall mee, never shall be free,

Nor ever chast, except you ravish mee.

It isn’t beautifully phrased and smooth, but almost brutish in it’s force, but that just makes it all the more powerful to me. I love the image of the unsaved person as a conquered town that must allow God to reclaim them.

I have already shared a couple of my favorite Dylan Thomas poems, but I couldn’t do a post about poetry without mentioning him.

I just read this poem of his last night. I hope you find it as stark and moving as I did.

Light breaks where no sun shines;

Where no sea runs, the waters of the heart

Push in their tides;

And, broken ghosts with glow-worms in their heads,

The things of light

File through the flesh where no flesh decks the bones.

A candle in the thighs

Warms youth and seed and burns the seeds of age;

Where no seed stirs,

The fruit of man unwrinkles in the stars,

Bright as a fig;

Where no wax is, the candle shows its hairs.

Dawn breaks behind the eyes;

From poles of skull and toe the windy blood

Slides like a sea;

Nor fenced, nor staked, the gushers of the sky

Spout to the rod

Divining in a smile the oil of tears.

Night in the sockets rounds,

Like some pitch moon, the limit of the globes;

Day lights the bone;

Where no cold is, the skinning gales unpin

The winter’s robes;

The film of spring is hanging from the lids.

Light breaks on secret lots,

On tips of thought where thoughts smell in the rain;

When logics dies,

The secret of the soil grows through the eye,

And blood jumps in the sun;

Above the waste allotments the dawn halts.

Another man whose poetry I enjoy is Wallace Stevens. I first read this poem – and actually, all the other poems I will mention – in my Literary Analysis class at Southern. Happy times.

Anecdote of the Jar

I placed a jar
in Tennessee,
And round it was, upon a hill.
It made the slovenly
wilderness
Surround that hill.

The wilderness rose up to it,
And
sprawled around, no longer wild.
The jar was round upon the ground
And
tall and of a port in air.

It took dominion everywhere.
The jar was
gray and bare.
It did not give of bird or bush,
Like nothing else in
Tennessee.

Here is another of his poems that I am quite fond of:

Disillusionment of Ten O’Clock

The houses are
haunted
By white night-gowns.
None are green,
Or purple with green
rings,
Or green with yellow rings,
Or yellow with blue rings.
None of
them are strange,
With socks of lace
And beaded ceintures.
People are
not going
To dream of baboons and periwinkles.
Only, here and there, an old sailor,
Drunk and asleep in his boots,
Catches Tigers
In red
weather.

He’s pretty cool, yeah?

Alright, lastly, I would like to put a teeny-tiny little poem here by William Carlos Williams. First off, I just love his name – it has such a nice, bouncy rhythm to it. Anyway. We talked about this poem an awful lot in Literary Analysis. You would think that would make anyone sick of it. But maybe you’ll understand after you’ve read it.

The Red Wheelbarrow

so much depends

upon

a red wheel

barrow

glazed with rain

water

beside the white

chickens

Very sparse, yet very loaded.

Anyway, those are all the poems I have to share on this National Poetry Day.  I hope you liked them.

What poems will you be reading or sharing today?

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Courage

Impulses

– – –

There is a stranger,

his back towards me-

curved like a bow

defined strong shoulders

and spine – and

I am crazy, crazy

for wanting to rub those shoulders,

to kiss the base of his neck;

to run my hands down

and down smooth skin

then up to count

the naked bones

with my fingertips;

to lean into the curve of him

and never see his face

never hear his voice spill

over me, drown me, wash me

away from him;

to hold on to his

broad bare body

tight and tight

muscles move beneath

my hands and they

move smooth and

powerful and I will

curl against, sleep

next to him and forget

the world in which

this back did not exist.

The title of the poem is “Impulses.” The title of this post is “Courage” because I feel like I need a lot of it right now.

I wrote this poem a while ago, when I was at Southern. It’s actually one of my favorite poems that I’ve ever written. It is also perhaps one of the most personal poems I have ever written. It scared me to submit this poem, along with five others, to the Sigma Tau Delta International Convention the same way it would be scary to submit anything for judging and possible rejection. The people reading and judging it in that case were very impersonal.

It scares me to post it on this blog because this is a very personal space.

Perhaps it is irrational, this fear of allowing this part of me to be seen by people I know and love.

But then again, I really do think this is one of the best poems I’ve ever written – it’s not perfect, of course; I know that. But it sits on my hard drive, asking why I’ve hidden it away. Daring me to share it.

And so here I am, trying to be brave. It has taken much longer to write these few short paragraphs than it decently should have. Really, these paragraphs are me psyching myself up to hit the “Publish” button, which has never looked more menacing.

Ah well. Here I go.

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Lead Me in the Way Everlasting

Last night, driving home from work, hoping all the while not to be blown away by the wind and the rain and the thunder, I had an idea for a blog post. I thought it was a pretty good idea and so I set about planning it out in my head. Then I get home and, lo and behold – the power was out. My computer dead all hopes of blogging for the night perished. It was probably a good thing.

See, I had planned on showing various stages of my writing process, using a poem that I have not posted on here as the example. Tonight however, faced with a lack of wind and rain and thunder and lots of lovely electricity, the idea seemed much less appealing. Not that I have anything against showing stages of development in my poems, or that I mind letting cruddy, cliché-ridden drafts see the light of day. It is just that the particular poem that I had thought to share began to feel, for one thing not as complete and polished as I would like it to be, but for another much too personal, too close to home. Maybe I’ll be braver next month.

So, I thought to myself, “What are you going to blog about now?” And I answered myself, “I’ll just put up a really good poem by a really good poet. Yeah.” So I went to my fancy bookshelves and debated over the various collections represented there, and finally pulled Selected Poems and Prose of Paul Celan. His parents, German-speaking Jews, were killed in the Holocaust, after which he wrote one of the most haunting poems I have ever read – “Todesfuge” (“Deathfugue”). Celan’s poems are the kind that move you emotionally, even if you are unclear of what the words on the page actually mean or what the heck he’s talking about. Here is one of his short poems, from his 1967 collection “Atemwende” (“Breathturn”):

(I know you, you’re the one bent over low,

and I, the one pierced through, am in your need.

Where flames a word to witness for us both?

You — wholly real. I — wholly mad.)

But, even paging through Celan’s poems, reading and being touched by them, none of them seemed to say “I am the poem that will make you write today!” And so – perhaps because Celan was a Jew and often uses language found in the Bible, or perhaps because when I am reading his poems I am constantly being reminded of different Psalms – I put down Celan and picked up the Bible. Many Psalms presented themselves – the 42nd, the 96th, the 100th, but I remembered one that I love to go back to and read over and over. This Psalm is quite possibly my favourite, and has helped me through some rough times. And so, without further ado, I would like to present in full the 139th Psalm:

(To the Choirmaster. A Psalm of David.)

O LORD, you have searched me and known me!

You know when I sit down and when I rise up;

you discern my thoughts from afar.

You search out my path and my lying down

and are acquainted with all my ways.

Even before a word is on my tongue,

behold, O LORD, you know it altogether.

You hem me in, behind and before,

and lay your hand upon me.

Such knowledge is too wonderful for me;

it is high; I cannot attain it.

Where shall I go from your Spirit?

Or where shall I flee from your presence?

If I ascend to heave, you are there!

If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there!

If I take the wings of the morning

and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea,

even there your hand shall lead me,

and your right hand shall hold me.

If I say, “Surely the darkness shall cover me,

and the light about me be night,”

even the darkness is not dark to you;

the night is bright as the day,

for darkness is as light with you.

For you formed my inward parts;

you knitted me together in my mother’s womb,

I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.

Wonderful are your works;

my soul knows it very well.

My frame was not hidden from you,

when I was being made in secret,

intricately woven in the depths of the earth.

Your eyes saw my unformed substance;

in your book were written, every one of them,

the days that were formed for me,

when as yet there was none of them.

How precious to me are your thoughts, O God!

How vast is the sum of them!

If I would count them, they are more than the sand.

I awake, and I am still with you.

Oh that you would slay the wicked, O God!

O men of blood, depart from me!

They speak against you with malicious intent;

your enemies take your name in vain!

Do I not hate those who hate you, O LORD?

And do I not loathe those who rise up against you?

I hate them with complete hatred;

I count them my enemies.

Search me, O God, and know my heart!

Try me and know my thoughts!

And see if there be any grievous way in me,

and lead me in the way everlasting!

Whew – it doesn’t seem all that long when you read it, but it sure feels long to type it out… But what a powerful psalm this is! A psalm of awe and wonder at not only the glory and majesty of God, but at His willingness to know us and be near us; to love us and watch over us. I love how David moves from God searching out our thoughts to praising God for His thoughts; I love that he finds pleasure and contentment just in the contemplation of what God is thinking about. That is the peace that a close relationship with God can bring! And of course, the final two verses are such a challenge to believers. I know that, if every Christian would pray that prayer regularly (myself included) – Search me, God! Try my heart! Lead me in Your way, the way that you love! – we would find ourselves in a much closer relationship with God.

Well, I didn’t start this post intending to preach, but I hope I can be forgiven for that – I think I can say that I come by the tendency to preach honestly. Anyway, next post I think I’m going to stick with mostly pictures – those posts don’t take quite so long to write… 🙂

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The Flaming Rut – “Worst Bad Poem” Sigma Tau Delta National Convention 2010

The Flaming Rut

the road is a winding wheel

rolling, rolling along

carrying me to and fro

to

and

fro

until the ruts made

by my dragging feet –

listless, heedless of

rocks and stones –

have become deep enough

to reflect the depth

of my pain

not the pain of

mind

or

body

but of the

heart

and

soul

and the pain it stabs hard

slices me open

again

and

again

until the raw red wound

throbs, radiating pain

outward

like a stubbed toe

my stubbed toes

catching the jagged edges

of exposed granite

– for I am in New Hampshire

where the sea breezes kiss

the granite cliffs, made

love to the old Man in the Mountain

before he

fell

oh his fall was terrible

shaking the verdant hills

and restless pines

until they

wept

salty green tears

like mine, though

my tears are not tinged

with the color of life

instead, they are the color of

death

and

rot

and they are filling the ruts

as I think of you

as I

curse

and

cry

for you!

for you

who burned my heart

kerosene-lover

singeing my love away

inch

by

inch

until the last bit of it

falls

into the lighter-fluid

tear filled ruts

igniting

engulfing me in an

everlasting

soul-burning

immortal

flame

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